This Article is From Sep 23, 2012

UPA's Rs 100 crore ad blitzkrieg amid talks of austerity

New Delhi: After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's address to the nation on Friday, explaining why his government had to take some tough decisions on fuel hike and foreign direct investment or FDI in retail, an image makeover exercise for the UPA government is set to begin.

An advertising blitzkrieg bombarding the print and electronic media to carry the message of the government to the people is expected soon. But this high voltage campaign comes at a cost to the public exchequer - a whopping Rs 100 crore.

Constantly accused of policy paralysis and buffeted by allegations of corruption, the UPA is desperate to explain its position to the people. However, given the government's own prescription for austerity, the question many are asking is should the government not walk the talk?

"People must come to know what is in the interest of the nation... What do you mean by austerity? If somebody is launching propaganda against the policies of the government and these policies are going to benefit the people, then the people must know... That's the job of the government. Otherwise you wind up the Information and Broadcasting Ministry," said Rajiv Shukla, Minister of State, Parliamentary Affairs.

The opposition, however, is not convinced. "There's thousands of crores of wasteful expenditure in this government...They should first tighten their belt, then impose any burden on the people," said BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

"The government needs to tell the people what were the compulsions, why they had to take these hard measures... So reaching out...yes, it's the government's right to do that. But the government also needs to be prudent... particularly in light of the PM calling upon the country to tighten its belt and to prepare for difficult times. So the government has to set an example," said political commentator Neeraja Choudhary.

The first signs of the UPA being in advertising overdrive came with advertisements in all leading dailies last week, soon after the government's reform bombshell. It was followed by a film on Bharat Nirman that can be seen on all TV channels, meant to showcase what the government says are its people friendly schemes which have been almost lost in the Opposition din over corruption scandals.

Soon, there will be many versions of these advertisements in regional languages to woo voters in poll bound Gujarat as well as in the southern states.

But even as the debate on the expenses involved rages on, the big question is: just how much of an image makeover can the government bring about ahead of the next general election in 2014?